On Saturday afternoon, the Home Expo features a number of speakers covering a variety of gardening topics. The lineup includes:
- Edible Food Gardening with Billy Skaggs and Kellie Bowen of Full Bloom Nursery, 12:30 p.m.
- Container Gardening with Elaine Kelley of the Potting Shed Nursery, 1:30 p.m.
- Vegetable Gardening with Master Gardener Ron Brechter, 2:30 p.m.
- Home & Property Staging with designers Jan Pierce and Debra Lucero, 3:30 p.m.
The magical properties of herbs are entwined in the lore of many cultures. People have used them since early times for healing, fragrances and distinctive flavors. However you use them, herbs can be exciting in any landscape, too, from formal herb gardens to informal mixes in beds of annuals, perennials or shrubs.
Herb flowers and foliage provide a beautiful palette of color and great variation in texture and form. Herbs lend themselves well to small containers, too, such as window boxes or whisky barrels.
Herbs do well in average soil but prefer well-drained, loamy or sandy soils. Choose a place for your herbs with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
A soil pH range of 6 to 7.5 is just fine for most herbs. Some, such as rosemary or lavender, prefer the pH slightly higher. Test the soil before you plant to see the actual pH of your soil. Then add the right amount of dolomitic lime to adjust it.
Most herbs aren’t heavy feeders. A moderate amount of fertilizer will provide all the nutrition they need. Some herbs, such as basil, chives and parsley, may need more since they’re often heavily harvested.
When you prepare the herb bed, work in generous amounts of compost or rotted manure. Incorporate your amendments into the native soil to 12 inches deep. Planting on raised beds is a great idea, especially if drainage is of any concern. You can build raised beds of rocks, landscape timbers, railroad ties, old tires or other materials.
Mulch around your herbs with pine straw or bark. This will help maintain even moisture around the root system. It discourages weeds, too, and provides a layer of protection from temperature extremes.
Most herbs are fairly drought tolerant. They require water only during drier times. Herbs grown in containers and raised planters will need more irrigation than those grown in the ground.
Herbs can be grown from seeds, cuttings or plant divisions. If you’re new to gardening, you may want to skip propagation and just buy container plants from a local nursery. Later on, you may want to start new plants from seeds or cuttings.
Collect the seedheads of herbs grown for their seeds, such as fennel and dill, soon after the seeds have matured. Herbs are best collected in late morning, rinsed quickly and air-dried. Drying or freezing will preserve them.
For more information on gardening, visit the Northeast Georgia Home Expo this weekend at the Georgia Mountains Center sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Gainesville–Hall County. The Expo is open Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.